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Quirky, Off-the-Beaten-Path Things to Do in San Francisco

By: Hotel Nikko San Francisco / 03 May 2019
Quirky, Off-the-Beaten-Path Things to Do in San Francisco

Discover Quirky, Off-the-Beaten-Path Things to Do in San Francisco

Our city is packed with world-famous sites that are on every traveler's bucket list, from the Golden Gate Bridge to Fisherman's Wharf and Alcatraz Island. But to truly connect with San Francisco, you have to go off the beaten path and seek out new experiences for yourself. Find a pipe organ that's played by the ocean waves and a peephole cinema that shows around-the-clock silent films. Make your way through technicolor labyrinths and play penny arcade games from the 20th century. From a colorful mosaic staircase to urban street slides, check out some of our favorite "hidden gem" attractions and unique things to do in San Francisco.

Explore a Far-Out Labyrinth on Pier 39: Magowan's Infinite Mirror Maze

Immerse yourself in a colorful, reflective world where art meets science at this fun house-style maze on Pier 39. Keep your arms out in front of you – the optical illusions and endless mirrors make it easy to trick your eyes. Designed for kids and adults, the dungeon-like maze is made up of arched doorways and columns, all lit by black lights, neon, and pulsing flashes. The maze is scored to loud EDM music that enhances the experience. Expect to get disoriented – in the very best way possible.

Climb the Mosaic Tile Staircase on 16th Avenue for Fantastic Views of the City

Located just south of Golden Gate Park in San Francisco's peaceful Sunset District, this 163-step staircase is lined with colorful mosaic tiles the entire way. Inspired by the famous Selaron staircase in Rio, Brazil, the 16th Avenue Staircase is a community-led project built with donations from locals. You'll find gardens of succulents along the way plus panoramic views of San Francisco from the top.

Let the Ocean Serenade You on the Wave Organ Sound Sculpture

Built out of PVC and concrete pipes, this large-scale instrument in the Marina District can only be played by one musician: the ocean. Its unique design enhances the sounds of the waves rolling in and crashing against the shore. The pitch of the tones created changes with the volume of each wave, and listening to the music is truly a unique experience. The Wave Organ is surrounded by cool terraced seating so that you can find a front-row seat to Mother Nature's concert.

Delight Your Child (or Inner Child) at the Seward Street Slides

BYOC – Bring your own cardboard to these wacky concrete street slides, which are tucked away in the Corwin Community Garden and Seward Mini-Park (located at Seward Street and Douglass Street in The Castro). Built in the 1960s by a local teenager, the two slides slope steeply through the park for a true adrenaline rush. Nearby you'll find a garden of native California plants.

Play 20th-Century Penny Arcade Games at the Musée Mecanique

Featuring more than 300 coin-operated games and mechanical machines from the 20th century, this Fisherman's Wharf attraction is nostalgia on overdrive. And it's interactive – not only can you look at the penny arcade games, you can play them! Head to the Pier 45 to find this free museum, which takes you on a journey from hand-cranked music boxes to modern video games. The Musée Mecanique is a must-do experience for avid gamers and the young at heart.

See Silent Films Through a Hole in the Wall at Peephole Cinema

At Orange Alley on the wall of a Victorian cottage, you'll find a small hole that begs you to peep inside. Put your eye to the wall to discover a cinema where avant-garde and silent short films are shown. Guest directors create the films, which are only a few minutes long and run constantly. Peephole Cinema is actually part of a multi-city mini movie campaign that also exists in LA and New York. Look for the red wall with a small sign featuring an eye – it's located between 28th Street and Valencia Street in the Mission District.

Crazy Rooms & Secret Passageways at the Gregangelo Museum

A true hidden gem that could only be found in San Francisco, this far-out museum is actually a Mediterranean-style house from the 1920s. It was converted into a psychedelic art project in the 80s and feels like a trip down the rabbit hole. Available for tours on Monday through Saturday by appointment only, the Gregangelo Museum is a colorful cavalcade of hidden rooms, secret passageways, and wildly themed rooms. Crazy colors, sculptures, and artwork cover every square inch of the home. You'll see Middle Eastern and Egyptian themed rooms, beautiful mosaics, and maze-like crawl spaces for the intrepid to explore.

One-of-a-Kind Boutique Hotel with Asian-Inspired Hospitality & Style

Do you crave unique experiences instead of the run-of-the-mill? Discover cutting-edge design and distinctive character at Hotel Nikko, a luxurious boutique hotel located steps away from Union Square. From our glass-enclosed pool to our funky food truck and resident canine Buster – we're not like any other hotel in the world. Our Japanese-inspired style infuses every element, from our upscale restaurant ANZU to the trendy Kanpai Lounge. Relax in a uniquely luxurious room or suite stay in the heart of the city. We're just a five-minute walk from Union Square, the perfect location for exploring all of the quirky, off-the-beaten-path things to do in San Francisco.

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